I had no more tears left to cry when I lost my mum four years ago. Prior to her demise, she’d been bedridden for a year and even though I hoped otherwise, I knew the end was near. Those days at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), she lost her speech, and the only way we could connect was through music.

An Afrobeat Playlist to Help You Navigate Grief

We had a routine. I’d plug my pods in her ears, select a song and watch her attempt to hum the familiar gospel melodies and trending afrobeats songs. It was both beautiful and sad. 

She died a month after we started this routine, and I found myself trying to relive the memories we shared during her final moments. Music was the only thing that helped, but not just any music. Gospel was too solemn, foreign music felt, well, foreign to my emotions. 

And afrobeats was noisy, until I finally found these particular songs that gave me the familiar sensation I wanted.

“If I Die” by Dagrin

Dagrin’s “If I Die” easily ranks as one of the most controversial Nigerian songs, and the reason isn’t far-fetched. Who records a track about their own death weeks before dying? With lyrics like “If I die, If I die, make you no cry for me. E jen simi, e jor kejen mi,” I’ve never related more, for someone whose mum was ready to embrace death at the time she left.

“Olumoranti” by Niyola

When Niyola released this song in 2020, I was compelled to use it on a compilation of my mum’s photos and videos, even though it wasn’t her death anniversary. The profound lyrics found melodious ways to say things I didn’t know I wanted to say.

“I pray, I pray, I don’t stop thinking about you. I know you’ll surely wait for me. You’re still here inside my heart”. The very thought of forgetting my mother because of death? No, death shouldn’t have that much power over anyone. And Niyola captures this so perfectly well in “Olumoranti”.

“Olorun Mi” by Tiwa Savage

Death was a stranger to me when Tiwa Savage recorded a tribute to fallen stars and heroes in 2013. I knew it was a sad song, I just didn’t know how sad. Six years later, her lyrics “Olorun mi gba adura mi. When you take all the ones we love. We’ll carry on, and it won’t be long. I pray to be strong. Olorun mi gba adura mi oh” became a mantra that made moving on a little easier.

“Ashes” by M.I Abaga

Rap was the last thing I wanted to hear while I was grieving, but I discovered M.I’s tribute to the Aluu 4, the Port Harcourt students brutally murdered by the mob in a local community in 2012. The rapper used music as a tool to express hurt and speak against societal ills. Lines like, “The reason I’m gone. Let it be told, let it be known and turned into a song” resonated deeply with me.

“Legends Can Never Die” by Davido

“LCND” was a tribute to the singer’s late son, Ifeanyi, and other friends he’s lost over the years. He opens the track with the reflective line, “Make I tell you something, life is not fair,” and goes on to describe his loved ones as legends who are shooting stars in the sky. While the track might have been a bit too much at the early stages of grief, it was a favourite because it came out when I’d fully come to terms with my mum’s passing. It’s the perfect afrobeat song for celebrating the lives of those who’ve passed.

“Dad’s Song” by Teni

One of the hardest things about losing a parent at a young age is coming to terms with the fact that they’ll never see you become more. This was Teni’s state of mind when she recorded “Dad’s Song” in 2021. She opens the track with notable career achievements she made in her dad’s absence and how he’d have wished to witness it all. The singer’s pain was all too familiar. Like her, my mum left way too early, missing out on important milestones that were only possible because of how much she sacrificed.

With lines like “Eru o bami, you’re standing by me.  Eru o bami, you’re always next to me”, this song offers reassurance that our lost ones will always watch over us even though they’re no longer there.



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